179 The Ant, The Titan, The Survivor
By the time Cornelius had recovered from Max's second attack, Max was already launching towards him again. But as surprised as Cornelius had been by Max's sudden assault, he was still a peak Rank 7 human. When compared to an ordinary human, someone with Rank 7 strength was basically a god when it came to the difference in power. Max was unique, stronger than any ordinary human, but he was still unranked, and against a Rank 7, surprise could only last for so long.
As he struck out at Cornelius, the noble finally reacted by striking out with his magic power. Their strikes connected with an explosion that sent Max flying back from the impact. Cornelius had used his magic to enhance his strength, and now he was releasing his true power as a Rank 7 for the first time.
When brought forth by a magic user of sufficient strength, a person's magic power could actually manifest itself as a visible aura around the user. When Cornelius released his magic power to his full strength, his aura was red, twisted with insanity and rage, flowing out from him like a tide of madness and suppressing his surroundings with his oppressive strength.
When the aura hit him, Max felt as if his chest was being squeezed by a massive hand, taking his breath away and making him feel helpless, as if a titan was pressing him into the ground. Despite that, the young boy still struggled to his feet, his eyes focused unflinching on the approaching man that wielded enough power to destroy a city.
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The ant against the titan.
In his fury after being struck by the boy, Cornelius never intended to give him another chance, and struck out with every ounce of force he could muster. His punch was fast enough to boil the air around his fist, and created a shockwave that shook the foundations of the city.
Max's reaction was purely by instinct, crossing his arms in front of his face the instant before the punch hit him.
But it wasn't enough. Max realized the instant he was sent flying that his consciousness was fading away. He tried desperately to fight it, but he was helpless as his vision turned black.
Cornelius watched in glee as the boy rolled away from him like a broken toy. That's what you get when you mess with Cornelius Rellen! Who the hell was that boy?! Where had he come from?!
It didn't matter. That filth had dared to lay his hands on a noble?! Death was the only answer! He could not allow anyone who had struck him to live!
Cornelius charged at the unconscious boy, intent on ending his life, but he stopped after he got close. The boy had come to rest next to a trap, the same trap that had killed the only two crew members Cornelius had happened to find after he had awoken on the city.
In the next instance, the wall near the boy opened up and multiple mechanical arms reached out and grabbed him before pulling him into the wall. For a moment, Cornelius saw a glimpse of the void that the trap led into, a dead place that was so vast, his senses could not detect an end.
He turned away as the crack snapped shut. Whatever was inside the wall, it was beyond even his power. It was a void with no end, an endless sea of emptiness that mortals could not escape from. That boy was dead.
With that out of the way, he could return to his original goal; the woman. He had discovered her purely by chance as he explored the city. His crew was scattered, his seekers gone missing, and yet as if by fate he had found her again!
She had been delivered to him, trapped in a cage and completely vulnerable! He had already confirmed that his control talent could reach her inside the glass cage before he was interrupted, so he could easily take control of her with enough time. If he had access to her body, the process would be a lot faster, but this would do for now.
Ever since he learned of its existence, he had known that this city was his destiny. The cost of an armada was nothing in comparison to finally reaching the pinnacle of power that the city represented.
Now he was even more sure that the city was meant to be his. The city had gifted him the woman, no doubt already recognizing his prowess and strength. Soon, once he had her firmly in his control, he would take control of the city. After that? Cornelius laughed maniacally as he realized that the entire world would be his after he claimed the city! It was a good day indeed!
His eyes alight with greed, He approached the cage that held the woman, readying his talent and bringing forth his full strength. He wouldn't destroy her mind yet, he wanted her to be aware when she woke up, just enough to fall into despair.
He sent out his threads into the cage as his eyes consumed her through the glass. Soon, soon she would be his!
The wind was cold that night.
A lone figure stood on an empty hill, emerald eyes looking at the sky as the wind whistled across the barren fields around her.
She could not remember the last time... She could not remember...
Who was she? Why was she here?
There was a sound, then the horizon began to boil as a tide swept out towards her.
It was a tide of horror, creatures of twisted flesh and bone, all screaming silently in agony as their hollow eye sockets stared at her, accusing her of abandoning them to the horror of death.
"Die with us. Die with us."
Their whispers came to her ears from silent mouths as they swept closer, coming to claim her, coming to consume her.
That's right. She remembered them. They were the enemy, and their purpose was to consume, and her purpose was to survive.
Theirs was a dance of death and destruction, survival and conflict.
But she would not be consumed, she would survive!
Twin molten blades suddenly appeared in the air next to her, the red-hot metal sizzling in anticipation as the enemy drew closer. The battle was about to begin.
Suddenly, between the girl on the hill and the tide of horror sweeping towards her, another figure appeared.
It was a man, a man that the girl found familiar somehow. He was looking at her and grinning, as if he had won some sort of prize.
Who was he? Wondered the girl as the enemy swept closer. Was he part of her imagination? If he didn't move soon, he would get eaten by the enemy.
Remembering that she had to survive, she forgot about the man and focused on the enemy. She had to survive, that was her only concern.
Cornelius grinned when he saw her. He had made it! He was now inside the woman's mind! It had been rather easy in fact. After all, she was unconscious and had no defence talismans or arrays.
Thanks to that, his control talent had successfully materialized him inside of her mind. Half of the battle was complete now that he had materialized. All he had to do from here was to take control of her mind bit by bit from the inside.
This was a strange subconscious place though. He had never seen one this barren before. Most people he had taken control of before kept many of their personal thoughts and memories in their subconscious, creating a place of comfort and happiness. That made it easy for him to subvert their thoughts and gain control of them. But in here, all he could see was the woman's form and the empty, barren fields. Quite odd.
She had shown no reaction to him yet, just standing there and staring blankly at him with two moten blades in the air next to her. Those blades were likely her subconscious defence mechanism. He had destroyed hundreds of others before, so he was not worried about them. With a little effort he would become a god inside this pathetic woman's mind.
Cornelius felt a chill on his neck that made him shiver. Why was it so cold inside her subconscious? Why was there no sunlight? Another chill made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Was there something else here? Cornelius turned to look behind him and saw a sight that froze him in horror.
He never even had a chance to scream before the tide of creatures swept over and buried him in a sea of flesh.